Local elected officials are all uniquely dedicated people. Often with little time to spare, they work round the clock to find ways to make their communities more vibrant and sustainable. For little-to-no compensation, they take on big issues and endless task lists. Often the only time they hear from residents is when services are interrupted.
“We’re happy to pay taxes and grateful for our Village staff – said no one!” laughed former Mayor Diana Smith.
“Local residents do expect a high level of services,” she continued. “They don’t realize the amount of detailed coordination, training, talent and tireless effort that’s behind each and every service they receive,” she said.
Smith’s experience comes from years of community leadership. She now works with a team of local government practitioners at MRB Group, forming the SmarterLocalGov team. Led by Matt Horn, former City Manager from Geneva, the team is focused on support for municipal operations, planning, economic development and fiscal sustainability.
“Our team thinks and works strategically,” says Horn. With a growing team of planners and economic development professionals, Horn’s time is often spent leading board retreats and sharing his wealth of experience cultivating and leveraging economic development opportunities.
According to Smith, MRB Group formed SmarterLocalGov in 2011, in order to strengthen communities and their leadership. When Horn joined the team in 2019, Smith says the SLG mission became even stronger.
“Matt has really taken it to a whole new level,” she said.
Primarily serving local governments throughout New York, Texas, and South Carolina, MRB Group provides engineering, architecture, and planning services to community leaders often overwhelmed with few resources. The SmarterLocalGov initiative is a supplemental suite of services, and a free library of informational resources.
“Small communities have limited capacity, few personnel, and shoestring budgets,” said Horn. He explained that MRB Group’s SmarterLocalGov’s mission is to provide training and best practices, along with free information and affordable expertise that “levels the playing field” allowing small municipalities to utilize data, resources, and decision-making tools they normally cannot afford.
“In my community, we could not budget for a full time GIS person,” Smith said. “But we could afford a small contract to have a GIS expert available for a few hours to launch important projects,” she said. “He trained our staff, and supported them as needed,” she continued, “and we got all the benefits without the high cost.”
Information sharing is another important benefit SLG provides to local government leaders. The SmarterLocalGov.com website hosts a number of helpful resources, including tools and information that are available free of charge for municipal leaders to explore. [Visit mrbgroup.com or SmarterlocalGov.com, and look for the Local Government Resources page.]
“There is a library there of thought leadership and practical knowledge, including webinars, articles, case studies, and even weekly podcasts that discuss current topics of interest to community leaders,” said Smith.
We also invite local government practitioners — managers, administrators, and elected officials — to join in the conversation and contribute to the information sharing,” said Horn, who is currently launching an interactive dialogue at the SmarterLocalGov.com website. Community leaders will be able to share topics of interest, ask questions, and tap into the experience of their peers. This will help drive the content we will continue to provide as part of the Resource Library,” he said.
“It’s all part of our goal at MRB Group and SmarterlocalGov to strengthen small communities,” said Horn.